Politics and business a tricky blend

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Cyril Ramaphosa should by now understand that it can be costly and a burden to blend politics with business. The dichotomous irony of both worlds – which are generally motivated by self-interest and a sense of pretentious social compassion – is startlingly sad.

Business leaders often get away with contemptuous attitudes towards the poor (until their corporate excesses are exposed).

But for politicians such scorn could be suicidal, especially in a country like ours. It’s much easier for business gluttons, without a moral conscience, to pursue shareholder value at the cost of miners’ lives.

But Ramaphosa has delicately juggled business and politics, employing the latter to display some traces of moral soul and socio-political consciousness. But the corporate flippancy remains a blemish on Ramaphosa’s conscience, a banana peel on his political floor.

Such corporate indifference portrays him – at least in the eyes of some in his ideological family – as a soulless archetype of greed, or what Mahatma Gandhi aptly defined as “commerce without morality”.

This is why he has been extra-cautious, sensitive and overprotective of his political credentials. He tries harder to ensure that his name is not synonymous with avaricious propensity.

In 2005, Ramaphosa rebuked carmaker DaimlerChrysler for claiming that he spent R3 million on a luxury Maybach 62. He argued that he could not be ostentatious in the sea of poverty. Very considerate indeed.

But he almost bought a buffalo for R19.5m. Sheer opulence.

Was he serious when he reproached DaimlerChrysler or was it a reputation-management stunt?

How different is he from Tokyo Sexwale, who once appeared on Top Billing to exhibit his upper-class, copious lifestyle.

Ramaphosa apologised for the buffalo saga, though: “It is a mistake in the sea of poverty. I live in a community... the damage has been done, I will live with it.”

But the tenor of his e-mails, read at the Marikana Commission this week, again compels one to question the sincerity of his apology and his political integrity.

He described the miners’ strike as criminal, called for “concomitant action” and asked Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to come down hard on the miners.

One could argue that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this description (within the context). The strike was illegal. There was mayhem. Ten people, including police officers, were murdered. The police had to act (but not necessarily kill).

But the e-mail did not come from a heartless, soulless, greedy and pale mine boss. It came from a man who was pictured in 1989 being carried by mineworkers after a labour victory in the good comradely days.

Two decades later, the liberation tables are turned. The erstwhile mine union leader is now a mine shareholder (despite the value of his shares) and demands “concomitant action” against his employees. And 34 mineworkers are mowed down by the police. This is the reason he is guillotined – perhaps unfairly so. -The Sunday Independent


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